Would you like to “Kondo” your mind?
I imagine by now, most of you have heard of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo. If not, where have you been? Just kidding.
Marie Kondo put out a wildly popular book about the Japenese art of decluttering and organizing in 2014, and this year, her show on Netflix has been the buzz all over the internet (for very good reason).
She has an ingenious method for using decluttering to transform your life as you transform your home, and she shares it in the most authentic, beautiful way. And now that spring has officially sprung here in my neck of the woods, I got to thinking that her decluttering process can absolutely be applied to our thoughts.
In today’s episode of The Terri Cole Show (also know as my vlog, lol!), I’m going to walk you through how to “Kondo” your internal space, because it is so easy to hold onto stuff psychologically that you don’t need and that isn’t bringing you clarity or JOY. (Much like all those journals you keep getting at events that are collecting dust someplace in your bedroom…I seriously stopped counting at 24!!)
So get ready to clear out the proverbial cobwebs, because you’re going to Spring clean your MIND!
Do you ever wonder how many thoughts you have each day? Dr. Fred Luskin of Stanford University did a study on human thought patterns several years back and estimates that a human being has about 60,000 thoughts per day. Ready for the really mindblowing part? His research also found that a whopping 90% of those thoughts are REPETITIVE.
For many of us out there, these repetitive thoughts are the NEGATIVE ones. These are likely the thoughts that are keeping you up at night and weighing you down each day. They are taking up prime real estate in your subconscious mind.
If you know my work, you know I often use the analogy of a house to describe the mind. Imagine that all that crap sitting in the basement of your mind…what would Marie Kondo advise here?
Well, she would ask you to take out every single thing you own and put it all in a huge, massive pile so that you can actually comprehend the amount of stuff you’re holding onto. While you can’t exactly do that with your thoughts, you CAN take an inventory to figure out what’s taking up precious space in your mind.
What are your repetitive thoughts? What do you hear on repeat in your head 90% of the time?
As a psychotherapist, I want to emphasize that it might not just be what you think of as “negative” thoughts. Constant judgments (what my teacher David Simon from the Chopra Center used to refer to as “yum-yucking”) also take up a lot of mental space.
This process should help you raise your awareness about what you’re giving that valuable space to…because there’s only so much space available in your mind. I’m finding as I age (gracefully 😉 ) that the more information and data I collect, the harder it is to remember things because there’s so much clutter.
We need to have a practice for mentally moving things out that are not serving us.
The first step is to become aware of what you’re holding onto….because you might not even know. Science refers to this phenomenon as selective attention. For example, if you’re someone who has young kids, after a while, you don’t even notice the brightly colored plastic toys all over your floor. Your mind adjusts to the reality that that stuff is probably going to be around for a long time, and so it, in a way, protects you from letting it drive you crazy every single day because otherwise, you wouldn’t be able to function.
I’m suggesting that the very same thing can happen with our thoughts. And we don’t want to have selective inattention when it comes to what’s going on in our inner psychological space. We want to move out anything that is bringing us down so that we can function as our best, most vibrant and conscious selves.
So let’s move into my suggestions for what you can do to Kondo your mind:
- Get a journal or a notebook and do a total mind dump. Write down everything that’s been occupying your brain space. Here are some questions to guide you:
- What am I always worried about?
- What regrets do I have that keep coming up?
- What has been on my to-do list forever that I never actually get to?
- What conversations do I need to have that I keep putting off?
- What common things do I keep forgetting to do?
- What do I regularly ruminate about from the past?
I want you to search every nook and cranny of your brain for these psychological dust bunnies and cobwebs. It can help to evaluate each category of your life. So think through what needs tidying in your…
- Work and Professional Life
- Love and Relationships
- Health and Wellness
You can repeat this process for several days until you feel like you’ve got lots of space and that you’ve really identified all of those repetitive thinking patterns that are taking up your psychological and emotional energy.
- The next step is to go back through your lists and cross off anything that is not relevant to what you want, what you need to do or who you want to be. This is also the time to be really honest with yourself about what it’s time to let go of…even if it’s something positive. For example…if you’ve had “Learn Mandarin” on your mind for 5+ years, but you still haven’t learned it, take it off your list, because somewhere deep down, you don’t really want to do that, you might just think that you should.
That said, if lifelong dreams and aspirations made your list (that trip to Europe?), let yourself be guided by how you FEEL when you read them back. As Marie Kondo would ask, “Does it spark joy?” If not, cross it off.
Consciously and intentionally let go of anything you’ve crossed off your list. In Marie’s process, she has her clients thank each physical thing they are letting go of, and you can do the same for your thoughts. Thank them for trying to protect you or for helping you learn more about yourself and then let them go.
- What recurring thoughts can you take action on? As you go through your lists, I want you to notate which things you know you can and want to take action on in the near future. Are you always thinking things like: “I really need to get in shape” or “I want to start meditating” or “OMG I need to deep clean my house”? Instead of making yourself feel bad for not doing those things, I am going to encourage you to set yourself up with a strategy to actually DO them.
Once you’ve marked those items, move them onto a new list. If it’s a big goal, like taking that once-in-a-lifetime trip to Hawaii, ask yourself: “What’s the first action step I can take to bring this dream into reality?” Do you open up a savings account and set up weekly automated contributions to it?
Think outside of the box a bit too… if you’re always beating yourself up over having a less than sparkling home, but you hate cleaning, can you outsource it? Creatively brainstorm those first action steps for each of these items and write your ideas down.
- Time to put it in your calendar. Go through your list of action items and start to designate time in your schedule for the small steps you will take. This can take a big weight off of your mind, especially if it’s a recurring thought. Once it’s scheduled, if that thought comes up, you no longer will have to keep reminding yourself to remember to do it or keep beating yourself up because you haven’t done it yet! You’ll think: “It’s in my calendar. It will get done then.” See? MAGIC.
I believe that you will be amazed at how much mental weight you can eliminate by scheduling and creating a designated time to make those things you’re always thinking about a reality, one step at a time.
If you need more help on how to actually get things done, I highly recommend checking out David Allen’s work, “Five Simple Steps That Apply Order to Chaos” here.
- Meditate…but start small. Mark your calendar each morning for just 5 minutes. Have an egg timer, light a candle and create a little zen right upon rising. This is such an important component in keeping the brain clear and tidy. There is something so expansive about getting this dedicated practice down and being able to do it in a committed way. And if you are rolling your eyes and thinking… “Nope. Not me,” here is a gentle reminder that it takes 21 days to build a habit. I pass on to you what my meditation teacher and pal, Davidji, told me when I said I couldn’t meditate: “Try it for 21 days, and if you don’t like it, you never have to do it again.” I think you’ll find that taking that 5 minutes in the morning is empowering…it’s you actively creating a thimble-full of stillness and silence just for YOU out of the rest of the 23.75 hours of your day. Try it and see what shifts for you internally.
You can go through this process at any point that you’re feeling overwhelmed, or seasonally. Spring is the perfect time because there’s all this natural energy of growth, but things can only grow if there’s room.
You have the power to get a hold of your mind and decide what gets your attention. Because what we put our attention on grows and it’s where our energy flows. So when we’re putting it on past mistakes or regrets or being angry or feeling victimized, it not only drains your energy, it also can attract more of the same things.
It isn’t free for you to keep this messy, chaotic mind. There is a cost to the quality of your internal and external experiences when you have disorganized chaos in there.
I hope this helped you understand that you can be the boss of your own mind. It just takes a little bit of training. It requires present moment consciousness and your commitment to harnessing the power of your attention and intention.
What’s really exciting is that once you DO clean up your subconscious and free up your psychological space…can you just imagine the positive possibilities and benefits? Less overwhelm. More peace. More creativity. Living your beautiful, one-of-a-kind life on purpose.
So let’s break free from having the same 60,000 (or maybe even 80,000) thoughts every day. I’ve created a little psychological spring cleaning “Kondo-style” cheat sheet for you, and you can download it right here.
If you found this helpful, please share it on your social media platforms because that would greatly help me do the work I’m called to do: to empower as many people on this planet as possible to take impeccable care of their mental health.
Thank you so very much for listening, watching, and sharing.